Archive for the ‘People eat’ category

Vegetarian Video Recipes

October 19th, 2011

The vegetarian video recipes category in duckspoon.com is in dire need of sustenance.  Until relatively recently there were no vegetarians in Germany where my mother came from.  My dad, of Missouri stock, grew up in Eastern Washington on a farm with a meager food budget: food was something to be endured until he escaped into military service and the tradition of real food was revealed to him during his service in Western Germany.

Duckspoon.com is emphatically desirious of all kinds of food information, but is sorely lacking contributions from the vegetarian side of the woods.  There is vegan salad dressing, balsamic soaked tomatoes, aspargus draped with hollandaise, but there are virtually no vegetariaon video recipes with the main course consisting of vegetarian fare.  My history and that of my family comes from western culture and so I have little experience with any other.  I could take Ayervedic cooking classes, and vegan cheese making courses, but that’s not what I am trying to do with duckspoon.

Once someone learns to cook, to break free of the corporate food complex, they could expand their horizons by watching vegetarian food recipes, ayurvedic food recipes, or even tips on weight loss all withought sensationalism and intrusive advertising.  My whole goal with this food/education/business project has been to supply education for free, but get paid a enough to stay in business.  I need folks who have history in vegetarian culture to help me spread the knowledge of food.

Vegetarian video recipes is not the only catagory that I need help populating: vegan recipes, dairy recipes, sugar free recipes are all areas that require attention.  My team (a buddy with  camera and me) will continue to pursue recipes to fill the site, but we are still prying recipes out of my father’s mental recipe book.   I have a few ideas for vegetarian video recipes, andI have friends whom have more.  My buddy with the camera grew up seventh day adventist and I would love to get some time filming a few of his grandmother’s recipes.

Although I am striving to include more vegetarian video recipes in my collection, I have to be honest and admit that while recipes from my father’s repertoir are yet unfilmed I will endeavor to get those locked down first.  Which is where you come in.  Please help me grow duckspoon; help me teach folks how to cook; please help me increase the vegetarian video recipes on duckspoon.com.

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Chorizo and Eggs: spicy breakfast for everyone

October 6th, 2011

chorizo eggs

Chorizo and eggs is a spicy, heart warming, belly filling breakfast that, along with some black coffee, is meant to get you up and working a good long day.  Chorizo is a Spanish/Portuguese/Mexican/ Latin American sausage that varies depending on which country and which region you are tasting it at.  Although I have enjoyed chorizo tapas in Spain, chorizo burritos in mexico, I was first introduced to this cured pork sausage in Alaska.  Food experiences are only sometimes limited by geography.

I was 17 years old, cooking during the day at the Cookhouse in the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau, and Jose, the chef who had emigrated from Oaxaca, Mexico would make chorizo and eggs for the kitchen crew for breakfast.  That breakfast was meant to last us through a very busy lunch rush as the hordes of tourist from the three cruise ships rampaged around the small town and packed our tiny restaurant.

We served fresh caught salmon and crab and halibut, so to begin the morning with some spicy chorizo and eggs was a treat and definitely kept the motors revving as we decapitated dungeness crabs and flipped one pound burger patties for hours: our burgers were big enough for a family of four to fill up on.  My dad had hung a noose from the rafters and a sign behind it reading “Hang the cook if it don’t taste right”…no one was hanged while I was there.

Chorizo and eggs wasn’t the only Mexican breakfast that we had at the Cookhouse, but it was the most memorable…even though we were knee deep in some of the best and freshest seafood in the world and cooking quality steaks served with crab meat and Bearnaise sauce.     No, the chorizo and eggs elicited the spice, flavor, allure and charm of warm Mexico in a cold climate where folks worked eighteen hours a day when there was light.

Chorizo and eggs is really a very simple recipe and I filmed Adam, my dad’s one time student, cooking it for breakfast for the family one blustery January day.  So come visit duckspoon.com, check out our version of this timeless classic, go to your local latino market to pick up some chorizo, take it home and cook it.  See if you don’t perhaps fall in love with chorizo and eggs too.

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Are restaurants changing?

July 22nd, 2010

The restaurant paradigm has shifted since the current economic miasma took effect in September 2008. Restaurants have had to adapt or go out of business.  Many restaurants are going out of business.

Previously successful brand statements have seen significant losses and have turned to revamping their identity.  The New York Times recently noted that “even restaurants that say they are doing fine…” have started adding “value meals with phrases that evoke the Great Depression.”  Yet folks are still eating.

The lowest quintile of households spent 37.3% of household income on food while the highest only spent 6.6% (ERS.usda.gov).  Married couples are still spending 40% of that dining out.  But where are they going?

Somewhere between man’s fight or flight response lies an oasis.  From the firstboulangerie in Paris in 1792 people have sought out restaurants for gustatory meditation.  For peace, for a moment outside the “real” world, to allow the body to enjoy the fruits of the earth.

People are going to restaurants that make them feel good, and have a high perceived value for the plate.  There is always going to be the need for the human animal to spend a little social time away from home.

In times of worry folks will go where their money is well earned and where the tradition of celebrating the bounty of the earth is kept alive by folks who understand that a restaurant is not merely a business.

Tending the information bar

March 16th, 2010

citrus season

So, decent night tonight manning the bar.  A party of newcomers dined with us tonight, and that is almost always fun.  They  could appreciate, and were genuinely interested in, what we are doing as a restaurant.  Thursdays I generally count on Mike rolling through the heavy pine door of the restaurant, but that didn’t happen tonight.

A lady sat at the bar tonight.  I recognized her: she’d been in a few times, but apparantly this was the first time that she had been in with this particular gentleman.  They had cocktails, the grilled shrimp and grits appetizer, and pretty much covered the “first date” conversational gamut.  After a little while she began describing her website, or in her words “my little effort to help the world”.  I sidled up and into the conversation.

“What’s your website,” I asked.

She had, she told me, 20 years experience working wood products at Home Depot, and she had created a business to supply eco friendly wood products to those folks desirious of such.  Her site is Greenworldnow.com.

I was interested, her date seemed to enjoy me giving him a break from chatting, and she was genuine and knowledgeable.

“That’s great,” I tell her, “one of my regulars, Mike, is a very talented worker of wood, and I would be very happy to pass along your information.”  She seemed pleased, asked her guest whether he minded  her scribbling down her information on a cocktail napkin.  He didn’t, so she did.  I resumed my duties, and the couple continued their conversation for forty-five minutes or so.

Later that night I emailed her site  information not only to Mike, but also to another regular of mine.  He is putting together a website celebrating the conscious community of Portland, Oregon. His site is Showcasepdx.com.

He thought her concept beautiful and very in sync with his.  We will see if anything blossoms from this exchange of information, but everyone seemed happy enough to gather connections.

Is there any fish left in the house?

December 2nd, 2009

We read in the papers about the degradation of the environment, whether you believe that global change is man made or not is immaterial: the  instances of our environmental problems are accelerating.  The blue fin tuna, fished from the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea is en route to extinction.  Even reducing the fishing quota to under half, or 8,000 tonnes, would only give the blue fin a 50% chance of recovery by 2023.  (The World Wide Fund for Nature)  The world hunger for protein is growing.

On the other side of the world the health of the salmon fisheries of British Columbia is changing.  The Fraser River, famous for its Sockeye Salmon, saw only 1.7m of the 10.4m that were forecast to return actually made it. (The Economist Nov.21-29, 2009).

Combine the dearth of fish in our oceans, the hewing down of the rainforest to insustainably  raise one crop of cattle before moving on to the next lot, and some pretty tough questions about our future emerge.  How will we sustain a growing populace?  Especially now that China is seeing a rise in median wealth per household and the concurrent desire for meat that follows.  It takes an estimated 24 acres of land to sustain an American, and the rest of the world is aggressively  trying to catch up. (Our Ecological Footprint, Wackernagel and Ress, New Society Publishers 1995)

Food prices will have to rise to keep up with the rising demand and the limited supply of agricultural land.  For the past 25 years governments have not beein investing in sustainable agriculture.  ”During the Green Revolution of the 1960s, staple crop yields were rising by 3-6% a year.  Now they are rising by only1-2% a year. in poor countries, yields are flat.” (The Economist, Nov 21-29, 2009)

Doom and gloom aside, the wailing above is really a call to eat local, to buy local, and to really know from where and from whom your food comes and to honor those people and that structure which delivers it to you.

Shop at a farmers’ market if you can; eat out at restaurants who pay attention to the world food crisis; do what you can to ensure the existence of natural foods so that our children too may celebrate the bounty of the earth.

A burst of epiphany

September 18th, 2009

I have had this regular guest for most of the 2 1/2 years my restaurant has been open. He’s a tad garrulous at times, overly particular about his food, and generally finds himself to be very knowledgeable. He is not overly respectful of either the back or  the front of the house. He is sometimes rude and always tips 10%.

When he came in today it was my turn in the rotation.  Actually his wife came in first and I sat her at a table by the window.  When he arrived ten or so minutes later his eyes hurt him and so he asked to move towards the back of the restaurant where it is dark.  Of course, I said, and moved the water glasses and menus over to the chosen table.

My dad once told me a story about working at the Ringside in ‘71.  This fellah came in and regardless the size of the party or the bill would tip the staff $1.  My dad swore to himself that he would some day get $2.  With the correct service and real warmth, by the end of the year, the gentleman was tipping 5 bucks a dinner party.  He never went over that, but that’s not the point.

The cooks behind the line of our open kitchen bear witness to everything that happens in the room…unless, of course, they are getting their asses handed to them.  All kitchen personnel are philosophers.  They are attempting to understand our existence through the growth and preparation of the  food we eat and/or they don’t have to talk to the public.  All cooks are philosophers.

They whisper to me, over the corn grits and grilled pork, they whisper questions about the floor.

“Is that guy on 204 a total douche? Is he really paying more attention to his iphone than to his son?” or “did I really  hear chicken wing guy tell you that he could be a restaurant critic?”

See. I don’t care how decrepit the social graces or what brand of moron walks through that door.  I smile at every nitwit, jack ass, ding dong that rolls into the room…it’s the entirety of the concept that one has to embrace.  If the food is made with love then it deserves to be served with love.  Sometimes it is not received well, but then one can only produce ones best and not everyone in the world will enjoy oven smoked tomatoes with their grilled shrimp.

I busted my ass and made sure the service was genuine and Jack leaves me an astounding 12%. As he is bustling his belongings together he uses his cell phone.

“Where are we? “he asks.

“On the North side of Southeast Stark street,” is what comes to my mind.

“Don’t you know what street we are on?”

I tell him.

His brother came in for the first time about 20 minutes later and sat at the bar.  He had a martini, a two course meal with a beer, and enjoyed himself very much.  He left 20% on his bill, but that’s not really even the point.

It’s the big picture, baby…

My two cents on Yelp

September 17th, 2009

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I appreciate the folks seeking to help the small restaurant prosper by expending the effort of posting compliments on yelp.com.  I even appreciate the criticisms. However, I feel forced to add a caveat to my appreciation of yelp.com.

There are no polls to support this, but I have found  that a large percentage of these dramatic food gripes were never once voiced to the restaurant staff.  I ask every guest how they are enjoying the food.  In the few instances that someone mentions something critical (and I really believe our food is incredible; I know the extensive preparation that each dish goes through, but mistakes still do happen) then I take action.  Sometimes one most read the body language of the guest and actually pry the criticism out.  Either way I inform the owner.  We either replace it our buy it.  More instances than not the food is perfect and a dissonance exists between the guest and the food.  One really sees this at breakfast when the blood sugar is low.

It is these folks who do not say anything to the staff, but suffer on through the experience, who write these miserable, yet sometimes eloquent yelpings.  These people affect a professional demeanor, even breaking out into witticisms and pseudo poetry, then try to convince others of the searing nature of their experience.  The menu states that the fried chicken is on a bed of collard greens!  Don’t like it?  Ask me to have the kitchen separate  each item from the other or ask for a separate plate when the carefully assembled dish arrives. How petulant and egoistic is it of you to hurl cowardly, electronic stones at good people who are attempting to change the world in one small, positive way?

Sure everyone makes mistakes.  There are truly bad restaurants out there. There are many restaurants that prepare and serve food without integrity, but there are  definitely restaurants that serve food incorrectly which create a danger to the public.  I applaud those who sincerely are trying to inform other people of your concerns.

Have the courage to let me know if something doesn’t agree with you.  If it doesn’t agree with you the second time then perhaps your taste buds just weren’t meant for our table.  I apologize, but sometimes it just aint meant to be.

A little bacon in the summertime

September 1st, 2009

Adam Sappington defines Summer Succotash

Portland is such a fun city to live in if food excites you and you like to hear knowledgeable folks talk about it. I was able to film my boss, Adam, as he went to the PSU downtown Farmer’s market and demonstrated the Chef in the Market.
Shell beans and ripe corn and onion and a little love provides a beautiful summer succotash. And bacon.
Portland is a city with pork on the plate, so to speak.  Mortdadella, Proscuitto, thick cut bacon all abound in this town.
The end of summer with its baby onions and its sweet corn and bright blackberries is a lovely vehicle to add a little smoked bacon to.   That is of course if you are not vegetarian. Heck, take the bacon, cream and butter out and the fresh veggies and fruits are a vegan delight as well.  Really, anything goes if the raw product is the best available.  Interpretative Summer Succotash

A Roll of the dice

February 12th, 2009

The geographic location of your childhood forms more than your etiquette, your habits, preferences, etc…, but  your entire health.  The influence of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monroe and the other stars of Hollywood contributed to the reign of cigarettes as the number one cause of preventable death.  Human addictions are soon replaced.

Obesity and its family are now the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. Here in the United States we often cannot afford the continued attention of a doctor and the basic preventable care offered.   We are the only nation in the West to not have basic health care.  

In Nicaragua health services are free.  The depth of facilities, and trained staff, however, is very shallow.  Preventable medicine, while free, is not very efficacious.  Diabetes has risen 54% between 2000 and 20006 (Diabetes Voice 2007, vol 52 issue 4).

The government passes out informational leaflets and adults are rarely more than 30 minutes away from a free diabetes consultation.

If you were born in Nicaragua, and have been raised on the starch heavy foods that  folks survive on  (a major component of diabetes)  and have contracted diabetes, you would have to get that free consultation in Managua, the capital. While adults can go to a consultation in any city, children have to go to the children’s hospital in Managua.  One little girl had to travel 24 hours to get care (Diabetes Voice, ibid).  Folks can’t afford those travel expenses earning only $5 a day.

We all have different dice thrown.

Nicaraguan farmers

January 22nd, 2009
Don Ricardo with son and fruit trees

Don Ricardo with son and fruit trees

I went to visit Don Ricardo and his family in the mountains of Nicaragua.  We climbed the mountains in a 4×4 tortuously slow, crossing streams  and navigating huge divets  in the road.  When we finally arrived at the farm we presented Don Ricardo with a bottle of rum.  His wife made  juice for us: fresh squeezed orange juice, water and a little sugar…at Don Ricardo’s insistence we used the juice to chase the hefty shots of rum he poured us.

He then took us on a tour, viewing his coffee and citrus orchards, his dairy cows and his land.  A truck climbs up to his farm once a day to collect the milk he squeezes from his cows.  Sometimes in the rainy season when the roads give out he has to carry the milk to the bottom of the hill to meet the truck. He himself rarely goes to town.

After the Sandinista revolution many people carried guns, and during the presidency of Violetta Chamorra, those people with guns could not find jobs or food and so resorted to violence.  Don Ricardo was assualted my 30 or so men with rifles, tied up, and had all his chickens and food stolen from him.  He had a revolver, he tells us, but what to do against 30 men.  He shrugs and smiles.

The fruit trees that litter his farm he received from president Aleman, who came to power after Chamorra.  Aleman gave every farmer fruit trees and chicken wire to start an orchard.  Don Ricardo planted the trees and took pictures to send to Aleman to prove that he had used the gift productively.

His farm was immaculately clean, even with a dirt floor, and his hospitality was lovely: he invited us to stay for lunch and we had a typical Nicaraguan farm meal: scrambled eggs, fried salty cheese and tortillas with sweetened coffee from his farm.

It was beautiful, humbling and refreshing to see people with so little to be so thankful for life and so willing to share.